Real World Summer

This is my first summer in the real world. It’s the first summer where I have not had ample free time, hours to lay in the sun, or days to do nothing. It’s the first summer where I’m actually working a real job, a job that requires me to come in every day at the same time and leave when the sun has already passed its prime.

Last summer, I had graduated college, but I was still clearly not in the real world. I was still job searching and teaching swimming lessons and didn’t start working in a restaurant until later in July or August. I still had plenty of time to enjoy the summer months.

And all the summers before that my summer job didn’t count. As a lifeguard, I went in to work around 11 AM and spent my days in a bathing suit, soaking up the rays, lounging by a pool. I got nice long breaks where I could lay out or swim or read a book. I taught a few swimming lessons and left the pool at 7:30 PM, with time to either go home and relax or hang out with friends, knowing that I didn’t really have a care in the world, and that an 11 AM start time the next day was plenty of time to sleep in.

Just a typical day, on my break at the pool.

Just a typical day, on my break at the pool.

Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate those days when I had them. I have had a summer job since I was 15. I started working at a pool–selling ice cream bars in the snack shack and cleaning up the wrappers that escaped the garbage cans. The next summer I was a lifeguard at a different pool and just couldn’t bear to leave that easy life. I knew that it was an easy job. It was a great job for a swimmer, and I could use the skills I already had. But by the last summer or two that I spent there, I started to hate it. I was tired of the sun. I hated putting on sunscreen every day. I was appalled that I had let myself sit there staring at water all that time, basking in boredom. And I had read too many articles about lifeguards getting skin cancer. I finished up my fifth year lifeguarding and never looked back.

It was an easy job. But I still didn’t fully appreciate it. It’s hard to appreciate something until you’re done with it, until you’ve seen the other side.

And here I am. On the other side. And now I see that the old grass was greener.

I am a summer person. I love summer. I love sun and the beach and warm days put me in a wonderful mood. So now I wake up in the morning, shower and put on a sundress. But when I get to work, I can’t even tell if the sun is shining because my office doesn’t have a window. I leave work at 5:30 PM and I feel that summertime is passing me by. I find it difficult to do anything after work knowing that I just have to wake up again early the next morning. My skin will be permanently ghostly this year, unless I try really really hard on the weekends to lay out–but on the weekends, I have other things I’ve been waiting all week to do.

Summers in the real world have turned out to be much more depressing than I originally anticipated.

So this week, I am lucky to be on vacation. I am incredibly lucky that the organization I work for was able to give me a few days of paid time off (and that my vacation happens to be over the 4th of July holiday, when our office is closed anyways). And I can say for a fact that I am taking full advantage. I have turned off my work email syncing on my phone. Our beach house actually doesn’t have wireless internet connection this year, so I won’t have to worry about seeing all the emails pop up on my computer. (I’m writing this from a Starbucks.) I brought plenty of books and bikinis, with the expectation of clearing my mind and de-stressing.

myrtle beach 2012 252

During those lifeguard years, I would get to the beach and it would be just a different version of my work-day. Sun, water, sunscreen. But this year…this is vacation. This is the true meaning of vacation. It’s a relief. Taking some time to yourself to unwind and relax, to get away from the real world for a short time. And to figure out how to better appreciate the real world when you go back.

So far it’s off to a rainy start. But honestly, I don’t even mind. There will be other days to lay on the beach. Today I will read a book.

An Explanation of My Life’s Next Chapter

And suddenly, with little notice, the unemployed has found herself incredibly busy.

For the first half, or more like two-thirds, of the summer, my days consisted of my morning coffee and newspaper routine, while watching the Today Show, followed by a trip to the gym or to the park for a run, then a few hours scanning career search engines and company websites, sending out a few resumes here and there…and then I would relax, read a book, sit in the backyard and get a tan, watch movies, take naps. I had quite the life, you might say. Student loans, cell phone bills and the prospect of a needing a new computer were hanging over my head, but no matter–I had time to nap. What working adult can say that?

But then I finally got through my server training and now my schedule has me waiting tables about 35 hours a week. I continued teaching swimming lessons to my neighbor as long as I could but I taught the last one last week. I still have my coffee in the mornings, but I don’t always have time to run or play around on the internet. Definitely no time to nap. And as soon as I got used to this new routine, I got an interview for an internship with a non-profit entertainment media company. I interviewed on a Thursday and on Monday, I got an email telling me I could come in to start the very next day. So now I’m interning two mornings a week and am able to keep working full time at the restaurant. Thankfully there are no more swim lessons.

I’m busy now, but grateful to have something to keep me occupied. Since the work schedules only come out the week before, I can only take my life one week at a time, but this suits me for now. I can still request some days off to visit my boyfriend or see a Steelers game. And let’s face it, too much time spent with the family would have started making me crazy after awhile.

So this little blurb is brought to you by a busy working girl to explain the lack of recent posts. And I have just gotten my new computer, so now I will be so excited to use it that you should probably expect a post every day. Or twice a day. Because it’s such a pretty little computer and I can’t let it just sit there.

My Big Fat Family Vacation

I just got back from my family vacation in Myrtle Beach. It was actually a smaller beach just south of there, called Garden City, but no one would know what I was talking about if I told them that. My family has been vacationing there every summer practically since I was born. My grandparents rent a huge house and we stuff in as many parents and kids as we can. There are 29 people total on my dad’s side of the family and recently we’ve usually had about 20 people in the house (after subtracting the busy kids who can’t make it). We’ve done the same kinds of “vacation-y” things every year. We lay out on the beach, jump the waves, swim in the pool, go goofy golfing (“put-put” for you non-Pittsburghers), play games at the arcade, and browse the cheap gift shops.

For the past three years or so, I keep saying that they might have to count me out of vacation. I kept thinking I wouldn’t be able to take a week off from my summer job or internship, or I’ve just been crossing my fingers that I’ll have something important happening that will start my career or change my life. And for the past three years or so, none of those things have been happening, so I’ve enjoyed all of my family’s vacations. This year was probably our last one because after 20-some years, we are just too big. Family vacations are always fun; it’s always great to get away from life at home (even if my life at home kind of is a vacation right now) and just spend some time at the beach. But we’ve been looking forward to the exact same thing year after year and all of a sudden, you realize that everyone is growing up.

All the families and all the kids used to come down to the beach. Now we’re missing a whole family and a spouse and a couple kids who have jobs. Kids used to be small enough to sleep together in beds or share with parents. But now, some kids refuse to share beds, others are just to big to share. We brought down like six air mattresses this year, because there weren’t quite enough places to sleep. We’ve got kids on the living room couch, some rolling down the hallway. It was just easier when they were babies.

I keep saying “kids” but what I really mean is “kids/teenagers in large adult bodies.” We practically needed to take out a loan just to go out to dinner, because these large adolescent boys can eat. The kitty for grocery money needed refilled more often than it used to. We went through six boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts in two days. No joke. (I am proud to say I resisted and only had one and a half the whole week.)

We used to get tired of the beach when we were little, so our parents would take us to Wild Water and Wheels or the Cheese Maze. But not every parent would want to go, of course, so those were the days when we would throw ten kids in a car, double-buckle and put some behind the backseat of the van. (I’m pretty sure the old “double-buckle” tactic would be highly frowned upon in today’s uptight, car-seat-till-they’re-ten world.)

When we were younger, the parents were very wary of explosive devices (for good reason). I remember the first time they let us have sparklers under the house. It was the best night at the beach ever. And as we got older, we just couldn’t be satisfied with tiny sparks that lasted two minutes. We had to get the big guns, and spend a small fortune on major fireworks that were probably not allowed on the beach anyway. We wanted to sit right next to them and the best part was when they shot off the wrong direction and almost hit someone! And then this year, we mentioned not doing the fireworks thing, especially since we’d just seen them on the 4th of July, and most of us were like, eh, whatever, I just want to get a tan.

And finally, the things we pack have changed so dramatically, I can hardly begin. We used to bring toys and shovels and buckets. We brought a craft box full of paper, markers and stickers for when we were tired of the sand. We brought paint to decorate our collections of shells, and movies that always got lost or taken home by the wrong family. We brought board games and GameBoys and Walkmans and CD players. We brought Barbies and action figures to play with in the car. All of these fun things have been replaced by umbrellas, chairs and shoes. (A pair of shoes to match each of the outfits we wanted to wear out, running shoes for our morning work outs, beach shoes for the hot sand, etc.) We don’t need toys or beach stuff anymore, all we need for entertainment for the whole week is a few books and an ipod. Instead of crafts, we pack chargers– phone charger, camera charger, ipod charger, Nook charger, computer charger. Instead of movies, we bring hair dryers and straighteners and make-up bags. But even though we’ve technically replaced things, we still can barely fit everything into the car to make the trip because we’re just so big! The boys knees are digging into the backs of the seats, their feet near my lap. My seat is pushed forward as far as it will go, but we still have no space because this year we needed three bags of golf clubs instead of one.

We had a great time at the beach, like we always do. We relaxed on the sand with books and ipods, we drank beer and went out to a really great local restaurant called the Hot Fish Club. We played cards and volleyball and got a little sunburned. And 72 donuts and one week later, we were saying goodbye to the beach all too soon. It’s too sad to think that this might have been our last year at the beach…but maybe we just need a bigger house.

An American (Pittsburgh) Past-time

Everyone expects posts about independence today, stories about freedom, tales of dreams fulfilled and promises made. Everyone writes articles about picnics, fireworks and community gatherings at the park. They detail the history of our nation and possibly criticize the society today that has grown away from that history. We see biographies of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, the founding fathers who had an idealist’s hope for the growth of a free, unified nation. We read the uplifting stories about ways that our country has fulfilled that dream and how far we have left to go.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about baseball. Which is an American dream in itself. But it may strike you as ironic that I write about this American sport, since I am not a huge fan of baseball. In fact, I haven’t been to a baseball game in I don’t know how many years. I’m pretty sure one of the last times I went to a ball game, my girl friend and I were painting our nails. I was young.

But then on Monday night I went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game and it all hit home for me. Pun intended. Now, I won’t bore you with facts and statistics about the Pirates. I don’t know them. But I will tell you about the Pirates from the vantage point of someone who bleeds black and gold.

I am always excited at the prospect of going to a baseball game. I am the kind of person who thinks sports are much more fun to watch when I’m actually at the game. The idea of baseball is appealing. It’s relaxing, not too many drunk fanatics, time to talk with family and friends, Primanti’s for dinner, beer and cotton candy. Why wouldn’t anyone like that?

And then I sit down and I’m bored by the third pitch. The batter hasn’t hit the ball and even if he does, the ball is in the air  for about three seconds before it’s caught and the guy is out anyway. The beer is eight dollars, the line for Primanti’s is too long, the bathroom is gross, and the guy with the box full of cotton candy never makes it to row Y of section 325. And of all the seats in the whole stadium, you’re sitting right in front of the one drunk guy who yells very loudly at every pitch, at every batter, at the umpires, at the team on the bench, at the outfielders, etc… (It’s like that old computer game “Backyard Baseball” where the computerized players are yelling “We want a batter, not a broken ladder.” Yes, THAT guy.) Not to mention, you run out of things to say to your family after one inning.

This may or may not be your own baseball reality. But the fact is, most of the time, all that doesn’t matter. And I realized on Monday night that it didn’t matter. Yes, we did sit down and I was immediately bored. And no, we didn’t get Primanti’s  for dinner, my mom had made a delicious meatloaf for dinner at home. But we moved our seats to a quieter section, splurged on a few beers and bonded as a family, watching the Pirates make a come-back.

When people hear that I’m from Pittsburgh, they immediately ask me if I’m a Steelers fan. (I still don’t understand why that is the first question they feel the need to ask. Everyone from Pittsburgh is a Steelers fan. There is no doubt about that, no need to ask that question.) Sometimes that is followed by whether I’m a Pirates fan (never the Pens, which I don’t get because the Pens are pretty good and hockey is exciting, but whatever). And always, someone finds a way to chime in that “the Pirates suck”. I almost always agree with them, but you never turn your back on your team. But this year, something happened and the Pirates are actually winning games. There are actually more than ten people in the stands. We actually hit several home runs and won 11-2 on Monday night. So stop bashing my team. Your football team sucks, but you don’t hear me saying anything.

The level of fan loyalty in Pittsburgh will never cease to amaze me. On a day when we’re talking about unification and dreams and promise, look no further than this city here. Our sports teams will always, always bring us together. Just like Independence Day brings our divided nation together to eat hot dogs, watch fireworks and forget about politics–even if it’s just for one day. With nothing else in common, Pittsburghers can bond over the fact that we all love our football, hockey and baseball teams– even when they’re terrible. And we will root for those teams through thick and thin. Maybe the Pirates went through some rough years (or decades) but every summer, they come back, they try their best and their fans are behind them. And here they are, winning games, hitting home runs, filling the stadium with cheers. Now that is the American dream.

(Alright, this post actually is about uplifting American hopes and promises. Sorry about that.)

The Job Search for the College Grad

I have been home from college for a little over two weeks. I don’t have a job yet, not even a summer job. I will soon have to start paying back my students loans with what meager earnings I made through school. The thought that I don’t have a job is never far from my mind. And despite all this, I am slowly learning how to sit back and just enjoy the extra time I have.

I have been applying to jobs every day since I got home from college. I’ve emailed contacts that I’ve made and reconnected with older students I knew from school. I’ve updated my resume and perfected my cover letters. I’ve organized videos on my YouTube channel and retweeted some great job-searching tips. I’ve added more connections on LinkedIn and created this website. So I know that someday, some form of electronic media will reach the right person who will give me the perfect job that will lead to my dreams. I will continue to apply everywhere and follow up after interviews. I’ve read enough articles and blogs about the job and internship hunt that I know that I am doing everything I should be doing. It will all work out eventually.

So this summer, I’ve started to learn that it’s okay that I’m not busy right now. I’m so used to having a packed schedule with barely enough time to eat between classes, shooting video, working at a restaurant, editing, and hanging out with friends. I like the bustle of a busy schedule. I feel that I get more work done when I know that I have only a set amount of time to get it done. It has taken some adjustment for me to realize that the world will not end if I have time to actually take a nap or listen to music.

My first order of business when I had gotten home from college and unloaded the car was to immediately unpack, rearrange the bedroom and organize my stuff. “Set up camp” if you will. I created an organized workspace in a corner of my room, amid the deeply unorganized crap that my brother had brought home from college and never unpacked. But that’s all right because here I am at my old-fashioned roll-top desk (which my laptop doesn’t truly fit on), with pencils and notepad within reach (in case of a phone call from an employer offering me a job), and my to-do list constantly updated (“find a job” is always at the top). And the first couple days I sat here diligently until I realized that I needed to take a chill pill, spend some time with my family, read a book and enjoy what little unemployment time I have (because let’s face it, the retirement age will be at least 90 by the time this generation gets there).

So I picked up A Widow for One Year by John Irving and haven’t looked back since. Yes, I’m still applying for jobs every day and I’m still keeping myself organized, but I’m managing my time more wisely. I’m working out in the mornings, chatting with my mom over breakfast, learning to play pool with my brother and taking naps in the afternoons. After being away at school for four years, I learned to really appreciate the time I have with my family. We’re all growing up quickly and starting to head out into the big bad world, so I was wonderfully blessed with this extra time to spend with them. One of these days, I’ll get a call about a job offer. But for now, I’m fine with relaxing a little bit.